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Madcap Sailing
Fine Time in Foxtown
12/05/2008/10:19 pm, Foxtown, Little Abaco Island

When we left Allans Pensacola on Friday morning, we were still hoping that we might make a stop for an hour or so at Moraine Cay and then anchor for the night at Double Breasted Cays. These were to have been the last stops on our route out of the Bahamas, and they are reputed to be beautiful cays.

Well, you know what they say about making plans and schedules...

The west wind just wouldn't have been pleasant out there on the outer cays. We can manage an unpleasant period if we know it is going to be temporary but the forecast didn't look that way. One option was to continue on to Grand Cay, but as we took second and third looks at the charts, we made the decision to head into Foxtown on Little Abaco Island. It turned out to be an excellent idea.

The route past Hawksbill Cays and in to the harbour is a bit complicated, but we had no trouble this time. There are 3 possible anchorages marked, and we chose to go to one of the two spots off the town. Interestingly enough, Amapola - the boat beside us last night was already there. We never did get to meet them but we exchanged waves.

The anchor dug in well on the first try and an hour later we dinghied to the Government Wharf. It is a good strong one (rebuilt after the last hurricane) with several ladders available and garbage dumpsters at the end of it. We walked along the road to the Batelco tower and purchased one more $20.00 card for our cell phone. As we passed the gas station at the corner, I tried unsuccessfully to call my dad while Jim went in to get water. Neither of the two pay phones in town worked, but the stop at the store was fortuitous.

Lillian Parker sat in the breeze of the doorway plaiting while her daughter (who went to University of Waterloo back in the 1980's!) and grandson who were visiting from Marsh Harbour kept her company. As often happens, we got into conversation with them and were still there half an hour later.

I wrote all about our Mothers' Day experience in the posting by that name so I'll just fill in around the edges here. Lillian welcomed us to Foxtown and to her family. We went over to the local bar and restaurant for a beer in the afternoon and dinner that night and found friendly folks there too. As we walked down the roads, people called out "Hi!" and "How are you doing?" and "You folks all right?" As we passed some of the kids playing in the water on Monday, one of them waved and said, "Hi boat people!" We laughed as we answered.

This community has been hard hit by hurricanes and it's not on the list of stops that all the cruisers talk about, but in our experience it was definitely worth a visit. The holding was good in the harbour; the protection was good from the S and SW, and not bad from the W because of the shoals, and the scenery of the surrounding cays and rocky outcroppings was lovely. It was also a really good staging spot for heading to Great Sale Cay and onward across the Gulf Stream.

We spent Monday exploring the Hawksbill Cays, stopping in every little cove to swim in the bathtub warm water and prowling the shore for shells. We packed up the boat and prepared to head out on Tuesday for the next stage of our journey - probably to Great Sale Cay.

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A Parker Family Mothers' Day
11/05/2008/10:24 pm, Foxtown, Little Abaco Island

This is another one of those postings that has little to do with sailing, and lots to do with life ... or perhaps that is a misstatement and it has a lot to do with sailing - it is all about where the wind blows us.

I had been feeling a little worried about Mothers' Day this year. My mother died in December and this would be the first Mothers Day without her. I was far away from my three children. I could not see them and perhaps could not even be in touch with them at all.

And so ... we were on our way to Moraine or to Double Breasted Cay - that could have been a neat Mothers' Day stop!! But the wind blew us to Foxtown instead. There we found Lillian Parker and her family and this is where my story really starts.

Jim and I happened into her store to get water and when we asked if Bahamians celebrate Mothers' Day the answer was "Yes." Jim's next question was "Is there a restaurant that will be open on Mothers' Day so I can take my wife out to dinner?" Lillian paused a minute, appraising us and then said, "If you would like to come to church with me on Sunday, you wouldn't have to worry about food."

It seemed pretty clear to me that I was supposed to be with her for Mothers' Day so we accepted her invitation.

Lillian has 11 living children - the youngest just turned 40. One son, Bernie, is the pastor of the Revival Ministries Church of God - a Pentecostal church - or a jumpin' church (so named because they Move). Several daughters and sons have beautiful voices and are musical leaders in the church. Lillian poked me at one point and said, "They're all mine" with great pride in her voice, and indeed, most of those in the church were her children or grands, or related in some way.

It was a Mothers' Day service - start to finish. Lillian took us right along with her and we followed her every move. We moved to the music of the praise service, and oh my, it was a praise service with music that got right into the very cells of our bodies. We reveled in the bright colours of the clothes. Lillian wore an elegant white suit and hat - an outfit that my Mum could have donned anytime. There were orange suits and green and pink and ivory ones. There were red hats and pink ones and white ones. There were city styles and rural styles, and it wasn't only the women who chose their clothes with care. The children were in their Sunday best with ribbons in their hair and some of the men's suits were bright coloured or ornately tailored. These folks dressed for church.

When the pastor prayed for those of us who had mothers not physically present with us in this world, I felt he was talking straight to me. When Daphne sang "That's what Heaven Means to Me" in memory of her mother, I struggled to keep back the tears. When Jim joined all the other males in the congregation as they gathered up front to sing a song for Mamas, I smiled from ear to ear. (Did I mention that ours were the only 2 white faces in church?) When pastor Bernie preached that the responsibility is with the mothers to produce good children, I prayed that I had done a good enough job. I know we have good children but I often think that is as much their own doing as Jim's or mine!

At the end of the service, we were interested to witness a new-to-us practice. The pastor handed out envelopes of monetary gifts to many mothers - oldest - visiting- happiest, and told others to check under their seats for envelopes. Several children (adult ones and young ones) presented their mothers with cheques and cards. Some sang songs to their mothers and spoke loving and appreciative words to them. I was delighted to receive the envelope for the "most happy, joyful mother on that day"! I guess the "Rev" as his brothers and sisters called him, could see my smile.

After the service, we went back to Lillian's house and the family kept arriving with platters of turkey and great dishes of peas'n rice and macaroni and vegetables. A platter of cake and the ginger cookies I had made as our contribution finished off the meal. It was funny to hear someone say, "Want a Canadian cookie?" as she passed the container.

We felt so welcome and so fortunate to be embraced into this family for the day. We laughed as they told stories on each other and remembered escapades of the past. We nodded in understanding as they acknowledged the gifts they had received from their mother - the value of hard work, unconditional love. It was much like a gathering of our own families - with good food and good feelings - but there were lots more of them!

We went back to the boat and toasted our family. We thought yet again how absolutely fabulous this year of cruising has turned out to be. It's about the scenery and the lifestyle. It is about the people we've met. It is perhaps most of all about trusting the winds and the sea and the spirit to take us where we need to be.

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Lousy to Great
09/05/2008/10:07 pm, Allans Pensacola

From now on YOU steer us in!
I'm not coming back here without Electronic Explorer Charts!
I'm never doing this job again!

These and many others were the statements coming out of my mouth after I steered us aground AGAIN! I've always been able to "swear like a sailor" on occasion, but I have to say that being responsible for mistakes helps me to stretch and expand my vocabulary.

Because Jim handles the anchor, I am usually the one steering us into an anchorage. I like being on the helm, and in tight places I like the feeling of being at one with the boat and guiding it through. We discuss the approach; Jim stands on watch from the side decks or the bow and away we go. Our system usually works. When it doesn't - when I put us aground (worst case) or anchor in a poor place and we have to do it again (not so bad but still irritating) it feels just horrible and I get mad at myself and all I want to do is crawl away in a little misery hole.

We were coming in on a rising tide. Because I had gone too far straight in from the waypoint before turning to starboard, we encountered a shoal, and when I got onto it I didn't know which way to turn for deeper water. I thought the water looked deeper to port so I ploughed through that way but it was just a little trough and we were onto the sand again - this time definitely stuck.

We put out the yankee sail but it didn't tip us enough. Next the main went up and we twisted and moved a bit but not enough. Mike (Sapphire) and Jim (Solitaire) came along, and Bob (Toucan Dream) arrived in his large and powerful dinghy. Madcap Jim took over the helm, Bob pushed our bow in the right direction, Mike climbed onboard to help me winch sails in and out, and Solitaire Jim called out depths from his handheld depth sounder. With help from them all, and with wind in the sails, we finally got off the bar and anchored.

After the dust settled we went over to Sapphire to listen in on their strategy session as they planned their departure from the Bahamas. Because they were headed for Fort Pierce, they required a much shorter weather window than we did so we weren't really considering going with them. Also, we would have hated to leave on this note - we have had such a wonderful time in the Bahamas it would have been a shame to have this memory as our last one.

Nancy - ever thoughtful and creative - presented Madcap and Sapphire crews with bottles of champagne to drink upon landfall stateside and CD's with pictures of our shared adventures. They had discovered the "Signing Trees" on the ocean beach and Mike produced a buoy for us all to sign and instructions for us to hang it the next day.

On Thursday morning, we dinghied over to say a last good bye to our friends, and after waving them out of sight, we headed ashore to hang the autographed buoy from a tree. While we felt a little melancholy at first, we still felt we had made the right decision for ourselves, and we went about enjoying the rest of our stay.

We swam in the warm ocean water and we snoozed and picnicked on the beach. We discovered upturned plastic barrels and sticks with a hand painted sign, "I don't want to work; I just wann bang on de drums all day!!" and we banged! Once back on Madcap, our adventures continued.

A big powerboat pulled away, leaving its large dinghy behind. Jim headed off in our small dinghy to retrieve it and deliver it to the powerboat. That was funny to watch because the "towboat" with its 5hp motor was much smaller than the "towee" and Jim kept going in circles till he got some momentum built up.

Bob stopped by to offer us a good-sized hog snapper that we gratefully accepted. We worked on our filleting skills on the foredeck and ended up with two large - if a little raggedy - fillets. (Note: bring a really good filleting knife.)

After enjoying one of them for dinner, we set off for an evening dinghy ride. The boat we had been watching coming toward us seemed to slow and then stop. As we watched a man get out of it and walk through the water holding an anchor, we realized he was on an even more shallow part of that darned shoal. We headed in that direction offering to do what we could to help. Bob came to the rescue once again and towed the boat right off the shoal while we picked up the wading captain and delivered him to his boat and crew.

After all this adventure, we slept well and then departed northward on Friday morning.

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